AUSTEN – the Musical.
Book, music & lyrics by Rob Winlow.
The Bread & Roses Theatre, 68 Clapham Manor Street, Clapham, London SW4 6DZ to 20 January 2018 and then on tour.
Runs 90 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8050 3025.
Tour dates: www.austenthemusical.com
Review: William Russell 16 January.
Gentle, civilised and affectionate this musical play about Jane Austen is a delight. It has a beautiful, witty and wise Jane in Edith Kirkwood and Adam Grayson, Jenni Lea-Jones and Thomas Hewitt playing all the other parts provide seamless support. Hewitt’s assorted suitors – some sincere, one utterly ghastly, are particularly nicely done, Lea-Jones gets to play her snobbish mama and assorted friends and Grayson is her father busily trying to persuade publishers to take her novels.
Rob Winlow’s score contains some lovely songs, but it did seem at times that the melody was being left to the singer with the result that the backing sound became slightly repetitive when what one wanted was a fuller soaring sound. This is no criticism of Arlene McNaught’s performance on the keyboard – she also played Cassandra – just that the score cries out for some strings and a woodwind or two.
The stand alone songs – like the charming If I Fall in Love With You – are lovely, although some of the sung speeches are a little stilted, but setting conversation to music is very difficult.
That said Winlow’s account of Jane scribbling away to her mother’s annoyance – girls should have better things to do, like finding a husband -and her father’s delight larded here and there with lines from the novels as Jane wrote about she knew is always entertaining. We follow her being courted by a nice young man, whose family send him swiftly away back to London to escape from what they consider an unsuitable match, by an on the make curate, by a kindly older man – a doctor – who dies after proposing, and finally by a pleasant young family friend wanting to be kind. It is a tale is beautifully told. As charming a piece of theatre as one could wish for, this is one of the most rewarding of chamber musicals and it has been directed with a sure hand by Timothy Trimingham Lee..
Janeites will love it, but so should everyone else.
Jane Austen: Edith Kirkwood.
Cassandra Austen: Arlene McNaught.
Mrs Austen. Elizabeth Bigg-Wither, Mrs Lefroy: Jenni Lea-Jones.
Tom Lefroy, Rev Blackall, Dr Preston, Harris Big-Wither, Edward Austen: Thomas Hewitt.
Mr Austen, Stanier Clark: Adam Grayson.
Director: Timothy Trimingham Lee.
Musical Direction: Arlene McNaught.
Arrangements & Additional Music: Ed Winlow.